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Gov. Paterson defends Alton Maddox

Alton H.Maddox | , Jr. | 4/12/2011, 4:38 p.m.

This is not April Fool's Day. Harlem State Sen. David Paterson was my most vocal supporter amid the trial of the assault complaint of a white model, Marla Hanson, whose face was allegedly disfigured by my client, Steve Bowman. His supposed accomplice, allegedly, was Steve Roth, a white makeup artist and the son of a nationally famed makeup artist.

The NYPD refused to put the razor blade in the hands of the white assailant, Steve Roth. Instead, law enforcement agents exploited the stereotype of a Black man with a razor blade. Amid the trial, the U.S. Supreme Court would rule, in an analogous case, that this trial, in effect, was still rife with Sixth Amendment violation even though Roth had been tried separately.

In the meantime, New York wanted me to deny to my client the right to confront his accuser, as guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment. Instead, I should have honored the slave code and refrained from confronting this white model, as would mostly happen later in the Central Park jogger case. Most defense lawyers were afraid to question Patricia Meili. New York is Mississippi 1955 without Medgar Evers. I competently and zealously cross-examined Marla Hanson for four days. White racists went nuts. Mayor Edward Koch denounced me and called for the trial judge's head. Assemblyman Dov Hikind demanded the Brooklyn Grievance Committee take disciplinary action against me despite the Sixth Amendment. Also, Curtis Sliwa and his minions surrounded my apartment building "hunting for bear." A white female reporter asked, amid my cross-examination of Hanson, "Can anyone stop this black gorilla [King Kong] from cross-examining this white woman?" After the trial, Hanson would rush to the U.S. Senate to stop me. She argued that I had not only violated her civil rights but also that my cross-examination had caused her more pain and suffering than the assailant's razor blade. I was now registered in the Congressional Record.

On Mother's Day 1987, I was on the cover of the Washington Post Magazine under the title, "Mr. Civil Rights in the Courtroom." The title would do the trick. This article would engender the same kind of publicity as a prior article on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. "Nicky" Barnes was called "Mr. Untouchable."

President Jimmy Carter read the article and hit the ceiling. He vowed to put Barnes behind bars. I learned that the Washington Postarticle received the same negative reaction from members of the U.S. Senate. This suspicion was confirmed in December 1990 while I was on Capitol Hill.

According to the Daily Challenge (April 14, 1987), State Sen. Paterson reacted angrily to a United Press International story that quoted him as characterizing my tactics as, at times, "racist and sexist" but legal. This was his understanding of the U.S. Constitution. Mr. Paterson compared me to Perry Mason and said, "Now that a Black man does it better than anyone else, everybody is upset." He added, "All of a sudden people are talking about taking away Maddox's license. He has not done anything that would cause his license to be taken away."